Friday, April 13, 2012

Angel Food Cake How-To and a Recipe

My parents own a small hobby farm.  They currently have a few sheep, a llama, and some chickens (their rotating cast of characters has also included, at various points in my upbringing, goats, ducks, geese, rabbits...but never a horse.  No.  Never a horse).  One of the great things about visiting with my family is that we get farm fresh, cage free eggs every time we go.  And I don’t just mean while we are visiting.  We get sent home with gratis farm fresh, cage free eggs.

We have had the great pleasure of seeing my family more often in the past few weeks than normally happens.  Because of this...we have an overabundance of eggs.

Luckily, one of Z’s favorite desserts is angel food cake.  Store bought angel food just isn’t the same as the real deal so I took the opportunity to break a few eggs and make an omlet a cake from scratch.  It was gone in two days.

I found a recipe that substitutes part of the refined sugar with honey.  And angel food cake is already fat free, so I didn’t feel guilty that it disappeared so fast.  Here are some tips when making angel food cake from scratch.  It can be a bit temperamental. (See post re: why I don’t bake.)  The full recipe is included at the bottom of the post and can also be found here.

First and foremost, you can’t have ANY yolk in your eggs whites.  Even a speck will cause your whites not to beat right...or so I hear.  Here is the method my mother taught me for separating my yolks from my whites (I really wish I had taken a picture of this step.  Sorry):
Step 1:  Get two bowls and a large liquid measuring cup.
Step 2:  Crack the egg GENTLY into your hand over one bowl.
Step 3:  When the white has run through your fingers (looking like snot) and left behind an intact yolk, deposit yolk into second bowl.
Step 4:  Deposit yolk-free egg white into measuring cup.

Repeat ad nauseum.  It took me 14 eggs to successfully separate 1 ½ cups of egg whites.  Using this method insures that  ALL of your whites aren’t contaminated by yolk.  If a yolk happens to break and run through your fingers with the snot white, you only have to toss one egg white...rather than the previous twelve you’ve already separated.

The second important step to a successful angel food cake is knowing the difference between a soft peak and a stiff peak.  When beaten egg whites stand on your beater, but the tip curls, that is a soft peak.  When the whites stand on your beater and the tip doesn’t curl...stiff peaks!  psst....soft peaks come first in the beating process.

Last, the difference between folding and mixing:  After you have beaten your eggs, you really don’t want to lose the volume that you have achieved.  This is why the difference between folding and mixing your dry ingredients is important.  Folding is exactly what it sounds like.  You sprinkle the dry ingredients on top, stick your spatula to the bottom of the bowl, and scoop some of the bottom egg whites to the top in a kind of folding motion.  Mixing is a more vigorous stirring motions and will cause the egg whites to deflate a little.  True confessions time:  Here is where I kind of messed up on my angel food cake.  My dry ingredients weren’t folding to my satisfaction and I got a little impatient.  I may have been a little indelicate towards the end of the folding process.  The result was a cake more on the dense side.  Still delish...just not quite the desired texture of an angel food cake.

Good luck with your cake!  As promised, here is the recipe for Honey Angel Food Cake.  It has a great flavor from the honey-- not overwhelmingly honey flavored, but a slightly deeper flavor than regular Angel Food Cake.  We ate it with thawed frozen strawberries and raspberries.

1 ½ cups egg whites
1 ½  cups sifted powdered sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour or sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup sifted all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup honey
½ cup granulated sugar

1.  Allow egg whites to come to room temperature.  Meanwhile, sift powdered sugar and flour together.  Set aside.
2.  Add cream of tartar and vanilla to egg whites.  Beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Gradually add honey in a thin stream. Continue beating.  Add granulated sugar slowly.  Beat until stiff peaks form.
3.  Sift one fourth of the powdered sugar mixture over beaten egg whites.  Fold in gently.  Repeat, folding in the mixture by fourths.  Pour into an ungreased 9 or 10 inch tube pan.  Gently cut through batter to remove air pockets.
4.  Bake on the lowest rack in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly touched.  Immediately invert cake and cool completely in the pan.  Loosen cake from pan and remove.

So now the big question:  What do I do with the yolks???

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